I’m continuing to watch The Killing. The 12-part AMC series is at its midpoint, with the sixth episode (covering day six of the investigation into the death of Rosie Larsen) just airing this week. We still don’t know who killed Rosie, but the investigation has been centering on her teacher, Bennett Ahmed (and, as the episode concludes, suggestively pointing as well to Ahmed’s wife).
As I noted in an earlier post. the gray, cloudy, rainy Seattle and Pacific Northwest landscape of The Killing echoes the mood and tone of the original Danish series. As the series has progressed, the series continues to make use of that landscape (and cityscape), but it has focused more intently on the characters. As it has done so, we see the continuing effect of Rosie’s death on the multiple characters affected in various ways by that death: a candidate for mayor, the detectives investigating the crime, the “persons of interest” (aka suspects), and especially Rosie’s family.
What we see with Rosie’s family is a slow progressive implosion of each individual in that family. Emotionally constrained, unwilling or unable to face that grief, the characters tear themselves apart internally—an idea that is represented visually in the series by a shift from landscapes to indoor spaces. One boy starts wetting the bed. Mitch Larsen, Rosie’s mother, re-enacts Rosie’s drowning in her bathtub. Stanley, Rosie’s father, falls apart in a convenient store bathroom, the only interior space anonymous enough for him to howl out his grief and rage—only to walk back out calmly to his truck as if nothing happened. That he does not reveal anything to Mitch, who is waiting in the truck for him, about his pain is pretty much indicative of where the two characters are. Terry Marek, who plays Mitch’s sister (I think that’s the relation), finally cracks in episode six, and we see her at the end of the episode drinking wine, smoking cigarettes, and listening to a Neko Case album (now there’s a combination of activities that clearly spells out very very depressed).
Again and again, we see the characters through windows, isolated by the frames, separated from each other and from the world around them by the panes of glass.
As watchers of westerns, we are, of course, familiar with emotionally constrained characters, with heroes who emphasize action over talk, and, with our detective protagonist, Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), we have another in long line of stoic western lawmen (or lawpersons). Sarah doesn’t talk much, either. However, it’s not so much that she goes by the western philosophy of “when it’s time to shoot, don’t talk—shoot.” I’m not sure if we’ve even seen her draw her gun yet. Sarah’s silence is thoughtful, and the actress is extremely good at conveying the sense of someone whose thought processes are carefully analyzing a scene and situation. And the series is impressively effective in enabling us to follow her train of thought without using voiceovers or much in the way of dialogue.
But Sarah’s thoughtful silence may be its own form of unhealthy emotional constraint. As her friend comments to her, at the age of fifteen, she “already had that learned to live alone look” on her face. Her dedication to solving the case prevents her from going to San Francisco to be with her fiancee, and keeps her at a distance from her teenage son. Sarah is a fascinating character, and the series hints that her dedication and competence might be read as obsession, that she too might be heading to that dark place that leads one to wine, cigarettes, and Neko Case.
We don’t see Sarah’s implosion as we do with some of the other characters, but it’s pretty clear from the dialogue that there’s something in Sarah’s past that makes her interest in Rosie’s death something more than just doing her job. But what that something might be is as interesting a mystery as the identity of Rosie Larsen’s killer.